The Articulation Effect of Government Policy: Health Insurance Mandates Versus Taxes

28 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2013

See all articles by Keith M. Marzilli Ericson

Keith M. Marzilli Ericson

Boston University - Markets, Public Policy, and Law; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Judd B. Kessler

University of Pennsylvania - Business & Public Policy Department

Date Written: March 2013

Abstract

We examine how the articulation of government policy affects behavior. Our experiment compares a government mandate to purchase health insurance to a financially equivalent tax on the uninsured. Participants report their probability of purchasing health insurance under one of the two articulations of the policy. The experiment was conducted in four waves, from December 2011 to November 2012. We document the controversy over the Affordable Care Act's insurance mandate provision that changed the political discourse during the year. Pre-controversy, articulating the policy as a mandate, rather than a financially equivalent tax, increased probability of insurance purchase by 10.6 percentage points -- an effect comparable to a $1000 decrease in annual premiums. After the controversy, the mandate is no more effective than the tax. Our results show that how a policy is articulated affects behavior and that persuasion and public opinion management can help achieve policy objectives at lower cost.

Suggested Citation

Ericson, Keith M. Marzilli and Kessler, Judd B., The Articulation Effect of Government Policy: Health Insurance Mandates Versus Taxes (March 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18913. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2237826

Keith M. Marzilli Ericson (Contact Author)

Boston University - Markets, Public Policy, and Law ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Judd B. Kessler

University of Pennsylvania - Business & Public Policy Department ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6372
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://bepp.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1671/

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